National politics

Physician heal thyself

I am not impressed with the 60 or so “medics” who have signed a letter in today’s Independent titled: “No one voted for the NHS to be privatised”. They are a motley crew of Labour activists, ridiculous luvvies and retired busy bodies. The real doctors who have signed the letter risk their reputations on such a nakedly political attack.

Just take the title for starters. No-one is privatising the NHS. Do the signatories of this letter suggest that we nationalise factories, power stations, mines and steelworks so that their scalpels can be produced entirely in the public sector? The health sector in the UK is now 10% of GDP. One tenth of ALL economic activity. There is always going to be a mix of providers and we really need to get the most efficient mix and not be doctrinaire about who provides what.

The “doctors” claiming that no-one voted for healthcare reform clearly did not read the Coalition party manifestos. The Tories said:

Give patients more choice

We understand the pressures the NHS faces, so we will increase health spending in real terms every year. But on its own this will not be enough to deliver the rising standards of care that people expect. We need to allow patients to choose the best care available, giving healthcare providers the incentives they need to drive up quality.

So we will give every patient the power to choose any healthcare provider that meets NHS standards, within NHS prices. This includes independent, voluntary and community sector providers. We will make patients’ choices meaningful by:

  • putting patients in charge of making decisions about their care, including control of their health records;
  • spreading the use of the NHS tariff, so funding follows patients’ choices; and,
  • making sure good performance is rewarded by implementing a payment by results system, improving quality.

We will strengthen the power of GPs as patients’ expert guides through the health system by:

  • giving them the power to hold patients’ budgets and commission care on their behalf;
  • linking their pay to the quality of their results; and,
  • putting them in charge of commissioning local health services.

GP commissioning is there in black and white.

The LibDems approach was slightly different but implied equally radical change and the idea of any willing provider which was also in Labour’s own plans.

  • Empowering local communities to improve health services through elected Local Health Boards, which will take over the role of Primary Care Trust boards in commissioning care for local people, working in co-operation with local councils. Over time, Local Health Boards should be able to take on greater responsibility for revenue and resources to allow local people to fund local services which need extra money.
  • Giving Local Health Boards the freedom to commission services for local people from a range of different types of provider, including for example staff co-operatives, on the basis of a level playing field in any competitive tendering – ending any current bias in favour of private providers.

The language of privatisation which these ill-advised medics are indulging in is Socialist clap trap, language that even the Labour party did not use when it was in power. Furthermore, the idea that people didn’t vote for change in the NHS is unsustainable.

Some of the signatories are:

Carl Barat – musician with no medical experience

Russell Brand – potty-mouthed comedian with no medical experience

Dr Chris Burns-CoxLabour supporting retired doctor

Julie Christielefty actress with no experience of medicine

Dr Amy Ford – Manchester law academic with no experience of medicine

Sadie Frost – actress and stuff and Hampstead Labour luvvie with no medical experience

Dr Katy Gardener – academic, social anthorpologist, member of Socialist Health Association with no medical experience

Ken Loach – left wing film maker with no medical experience

Caroline Lucas MP – Green party MP with no medical experience

David MorrisseyLabour supporting actor with no medical experience

Tony RobinsonLabour Luvvie actor/comedian/presenter with no medical experience, Labour party member and one-time NEC member

Dr Alex Scott-Samuel – academic who is active in Keeping Our NHS Public campaign group with no medical experience

Will Self – left wing writer with no medical experience

Dr Nigel Speight – retired doctor

Dr Norman Traub – Southend NHS Activist, retired doctor and serial letter/petition signer

Professor Cathy Warwick, General Secretary, Royal College of Midwives – union leader

Dr Tony Waterston – stood as Green party candidate in local elections Newcastle 2010

Dame Vivienne Westwood – self-promoter and dressmaker with no medical experience

Dr Patrick Zentler-Munro – retired letter/petition signer

Dr Pam Zinkin – retired doctor who spends her time signing petitions, including Islington Labour ones, she turned up to her first ever BMA meeting to vote against the NHS bill carrying Nye Bevan’s book ‘In Place of Fear’

Two GPs from the same Liverpool practice signed. I am sure they are OK GPs but they are only two NHS workers at the end of the day, highly paid £150K workers, but just foot soldiers!

2 replies on “Physician heal thyself”


This is the kind of post which makes people cross. There are plenty who would gladly discredit you and you just give them fuel to do so.

What do you know about the NHS? What does Cameron or Clegg know about the NHS? They are not doctors so far as I know. Neither are you.

That does not prevent intelligentsia (or non intelligentsia) among the electorate who vote you in or out from having an opinion which counts.

I thought Caroline Lucas’s husband was a medic but cannot verify that. But she is an extremely talented and experienced woman regardless of her political stance.

What disappoints is that Cameron said the NHS is safe and here is more money in real terms. Yet what is happening at Ealing Hospital? Some of the specialist work is moving out of the borough (the third most populated one in London). That is totally unacceptable for a hospital which is not broke.

Time you started campaigning with your customary vigour to keep the services and even have some expanded upon. Now that would be constructive.



Are we allowed to deal in facts?

The Independent used the headline “Senior doctors revolt against health reforms”. Their standfirst was “60 leading clinicians write to The Independent urging Lords to block passage of ‘undemocratic’ NHS Bill”. See article here.

I think that I have gone a long way to debunking the undemocratic charge. Both Coalition parties signaled big changes to the NHS in their manifestos. The Tories specifically mentioned GP commissioning. Any willing provider has been accepted by all three parties.

I have shown that far from being “senior doctors” or “leading clinicians” the 60 are no such thing. They are often retired doctors or even non-doctors. Even some of the doctors are relatively modest GPs.

According to the BMA, article dated 20th October 2010, there are 41,349 GPs in the UK. The Independent is hard pressed to find one in a thousand of them to protest GP fund holding which many thousands of GPs have signed up to.

As of 16th November 2009 the General Medical Council counted 218,153 doctors in the UK. Still the activist doctors can only come up with a weak list of 60 names that are prepared to stand up and be counted.

The doctors have stubbornly fought every NHS reform right back to its founding when the BMA voted 40,000 to 5,000 against the NHS until Labour’s Nye Bevan “stuffed their mouths with gold” . This time it look like only a tiny minority are willing to stand up and be counted.

As for Ealing Hospital, and all district general hospitals, the only way that the NHS will be able to deliver better services to more people within the same real terms budget, which is the challenge, is by specialising. Ealing may not have a future as a district general hospital. It probably does have a future as a diabetes centre of excellence say. We have relatively few traumas in this country (thank heavens) but if I was a trauma victim I would rather have a slightly longer journey to a trauma centre than be killed by A&E at a district general hospital.


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